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FISA Fetches First Victim?

Actually, it's probably more accurate to call this guy the second victim since the first victim was the Bill of Rights. And I'm sure it's just a big coinkydink that the same day that President Bush is penning his John Hancock to a newly revised FISA bill that we learn this via Newsweek.
The controversy over President Bush's warrantless surveillance program took another surprise turn last week when a team of FBI agents, armed with a classified search warrant, raided the suburban Washington home of a former Justice Department lawyer. The lawyer, Thomas M. Tamm, previously worked in Justice's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR)—the super secret unit that oversees surveillance of terrorist and espionage targets. The agents seized Tamm's desktop computer, two of his children's laptops and a cache of personal files. Tamm and his lawyer, Paul Kemp, declined any comment. So did the FBI. But two legal sources who asked not to be identified talking about an ongoing case told NEWSWEEK the raid was related to a Justice criminal probe into who leaked details of the warrantless eavesdropping program to the news media. The raid appears to be the first significant development in the probe since The New York Times reported in December 2005 that Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. residents without court warrants.

Now I would have to agree with those who say this raid is about intimidating would be whistleblowers. As in any crime family, squealers will not be tolerated and must be made an example of. I can just imagine Al Gonzales scolding this former DOJer ala Al Pacino "I know it was you, Tommy".

But I wonder if this week's rush to amend FISA had more to do with the particulars of this incident than anything else. Consider that to prosecute any leakers, the administration would have to admit what they were doing for several years was in contravention of FISA. But now that they have what amounts to tacit approval of that activity from Congress, it will make prosecuting the squealers somewhat easier.

There is also the distinct possibly that Mr. Tamm was subject to the same warrantless surveillance himself. Remember that even after the Bush administration admitted to the spying, it still continued throughout 2006 and into 2007 (and for all we know is still going on). But if evidence that was collected via this legally questionable method showing Tamm as the leaker was presented in court, the Bushies couldn't run the risk of having it deemed inadmissible.

Now I'm not suggesting any of the above is true and I have no knowledge of what was exactly going on in regards to the NSA program. Sadly, neither do many members of Congress which makes their capitulation this week all the more egregious. They have no idea what the administration was doing or will continue to do because it has purposely been kept secret. Legislating in the dark has no place in a democracy.

What we need is a hearty dose of the glaring light of oversight. Chances are we will watch quite few cockroaches scatter for the safety of the shadows.

Update: More via Meme. See also Shayana Kadidal.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

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